If there’s one thing that Christina Mathieson-Segura wants women with a recent cancer diagnosis to know, it’s that “I’m OK, and you’ll be OK too.”
That motto ultimately became the driving force in Mathieson-Segura’s own cancer journey and inspired her not just to be a survivor, but to take what happened to her and transform her most vulnerable moments into something beautiful.
“I wanted my journey to be of value to somebody, someday,” she said. “I had the worst anxiety of my life. I would go to sleep, and I would wake up at 2 in the morning, gasping for air, realizing I had cancer — and it was debilitating.”
She is now 58, and it’s been nearly three years since Mathieson-Segura was diagnosed with breast cancer, and two years since she finished treatment. Throughout her months of treatment, she decided to begin recording herself — short selfie videos documenting everything she was experiencing.
Accumulating upward of 150 videos, her journey is now officially a documentary, “You’ll Be OK Too: Christina’s Journey,” set to premiere on June 20 at the Bellmore Movies, at 7 p.m. Mathieson-Segura also created a nonprofit of the same name, with the mission of empowering women to get tested for cancer, giving a voice to cancer survivors and creating a community that revolves around feeling at peace with a diagnosis.
“When I was 17, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Mathieson-Segura said. “At that time, in the late ’70s, it was like a kiss of death.”
Her mother underwent a single mastectomy during a time when reconstructive surgery was not an option, and she also endured intense chemotherapy.
“The chemotherapy was really like, in my opinion, let’s bring somebody as close to death as we possibly can and hope this works,” Mathieson-Segura said. “It was a completely different time.”
Her mother’s cancer metastasized into her bones, and she succumbed to the disease at age 48, when Mathieson-Segura was 23. Watching her mom suffer was traumatizing, she said.
“I had that etched in my memory, and I buried it,” she said. “Our brains do wonderful things to protect us.”
A businesswoman, Mathieson-Segura has spent much of her adult life as a go-getter. A single mom, she described herself as a problem-solver. “I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to help, empowering women,” she said. “I took a lot of pride in shoving a square peg into a round hole with nobody telling me I couldn’t do something. I was on a mission.”
When she was 54, Mathieson-Segura met her husband, Jose, and they were engaged in September 2019.
What should’ve been the happiest chapter of her life quickly changed, however, because in November 2020, she was diagnosed with cancer.
“You couldn’t even go into a doctor’s office for them to tell you that,” she said. “My primary care physician called me on the phone, and she said, ‘We got your results back and you have breast cancer. You’re going to need a surgeon and an oncologist.’”
Between January and June of 2021, Mathieson-Segura underwent six months of chemotherapy treatment. That August, she had a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery and a complete hysterectomy, all at once, in 12-hour long procedure.
“Throughout the process, I kept making these videos, and I thought the next woman that goes through this is going to at least have something to look at when you feel awful because you’re bald and you don’t have eyebrows,” she said. “Or you feel awful because the chemotherapy is making you gain weight.
“I wanted every woman to know that she was entitled to be mad, sad, angry, upset, anxious,” she added, “and that it was OK to ask for help.”
She said she wanted the story to encompass more than just her own journey, and ended up interviewing four additional women who were willing to share their thoughts and experiences. With the help of producers Charlie Steiner and Holli Haerr, her vision came to life.
Mathieson-Segura said she wants women to know that resources are available to them and that they should get regular mammograms.
The most common genetic mutations that cause breast cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2, and while Mathieson-Segura does not have these mutations, she has another, called ATM mutation, which also increases the risk for breast cancer.
To learn more about Mathieson-Segura’s journey and her documentary, visit YoullBeOkToo.org.
Looking back on her cancer journey, Mathieson-Segura called her newfound outlook on life “post-traumatic growth.”
“After you go through something, you realize how strong you are and how powerful you are,” she said. “Your life is never the same. My life is now the happiest it’s ever been.”